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Do “No Fault Divorces” also mean “No Fault” Financial Settlements?

Absolutely NOT!

Financial agreements must still be entered into.

Last week saw a revolutionary change in the way divorce proceedings are dealt with in the jurisdictions of England and Wales. No longer does one party have to either find fault with the other: or wait for a period of time for their marriage to be dissolved without blame. As from 6 April, the only means of divorcing in this country is on the basis that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, and the Court is bound to accept that as evidence of itself. Parties must however still have been married for a 12-month period.

Even more ground-breaking, both spouses can apply for the divorce together should they wish, rather than just one.

Although for some parties this may leave them feeling aggrieved where one party really does feel that fault for the end of the marriage is not theirs: for example via adultery or in the case of domestic abuse: nonetheless, parries are now only able to apply for divorce on one ground.

Once issued, the old defences against the divorce and the chance to object have also been swept away: there are now only three grounds to defend the divorce: first, the jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to deal with the divorce is disputed: second is to argue the marriage is invalid: and third to claim it has already been legal dissolved in another jurisdiction.

You will now no longer be able to claim your costs either, other than in very limited circumstances.

This does not however mean that the means of reaching a financial settlement following the breakdown of a marriage has changed. The law there and the mechanisms available to separating couples remain the same. Nonetheless, the removal of fault from the issue of divorce proceedings does highlight the alternative, non-adversarial means of dealing with the financial settlement. Involving the Court to settle these disputes is lengthy and extremely expensive and therefore wherever possible we would urge parties to consider alternatives such as mediation or the collaborative approach.

Under the collaborative approach for dealing with financial settlement (and the same approach can be dealt with concerning the arrangements of children) both parties and their solicitors work together to reach a financial settlement, in an atmosphere of mutual support and cooperation. There are no secrets in the process, and it is very much owned and run by the parties themselves.

Working like this, the collaborative process can be faster and much more cost-effective than court proceedings and both parties to a collaborative exercise will be given clear expectations as to what is expected of them: and what is expected of their legal advisors.

A successful collaborative process almost takes on a life of its own and if successful, can leave both parties feeling that they have been heard and that a fair settlement has been reached which will allow them to heal and move on and also be able to communicate with each other in the future which is extremely important especially to parties who have children

The final point we would make is this: sound advice dealing with the financial consequences of the breakdown of a marriage is still necessary, regardless of the fact that the divorce itself has now become a blameless exercise. Only a final order, either agreed between the parties and approved by the Court: or indeed imposed by the Court after proceedings: can bring closure to your financial life together: in the same way that the divorce ends your marriage.

Always therefore ensure that a financial agreement is entered into before your final conditional order in your marriage is dissolved.

The team at Ramsdens are here to help and have three collaboratively trained lawyers in their team who can work with other collaborative lawyers in the local area to bring about an amicable conclusion to your finances or arrangements for your children. For more information call our Family team on 01484 821 500 or email us, for a no obligation 30 minute free consultation #heretohelp.